Get to know one of the families who feed your family
– By the Veggie Fairy Team
Well, it’s February, and thanks to Valentine’s Day, this is a month that’s all about love and relationships. That perfectly describes how we feel about our farmers and food artisans — we’re falling in love with fresher, more nutritious and tasty local food, and building relationships with the people who grow and make it.
Last week we all got to know Tracy, one of our newest food artisans and maker of vegan meals, desserts, and snacks. (Read her story: Out of tragedy, a vegan dream is born.) This week, we’d like to introduce you to one of our longtime, old school family farmers: Chris of Deer Run Farm.
We fairies asked our farmer connector, Sam, what kind of crops Chris harvests for us. Sam started to run through a long list: “Cabbages, all kinds of tomatoes and radishes, broccoli, eggplant, several varieties of peppers, red potatoes, curly kale, collards,” before he ran out of breath and added, “Just to name a few!” There are beautiful photos of Chris’s harvests on the Deer Run Farm Facebook page.
This weekend, in the middle of winter, we have Chris’s sweet potatoes in our online farmers market. So you can tell it’s quiet on the farm this time of year. Quiet enough for Chris to sit down and talk with us for a little bit. He says he likes meeting the families who buy his produce.
When you meet them, what do they ask you?
How do you do it all?!
They look at everything we’re growing and that’s what they want to know. You get up when the sun comes up and work ’til 10-11 o’clock at night. You just work ’til the work is done. You rest up in the winter. But next week already we’ll be getting started in the greenhouse. We’ll start our seedlings of tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower and later we’ll transplant them to the fields. That way the produce is ready earlier in the season.
When you say ‘we’, who’s working with you?
Mostly my family.
My mom Mildred, my wife Britney, and my two daughters, Emily and Sidney, plus a few hired hands in the summer. And my in-laws help out at the farmers markets. We’re all right here on the farm. My mom’s in the house I grew up in, and I bought the old 100-year-old farmhouse across the road.
(Watch a video of the girls transplanting seedlings from the back of one of Chris’s antique tractors!)
So tell us about your tractors!
I have a lot of old tractors.
With the old ones, I can work on them. Most of mine are from the ’70s. The newer tractors are all computerized, and someone else has to hook them up to a computer to figure out what’s wrong. With mine, I can do the work myself.
(Watch a video that shows how the wheels of one of his old tractors are designed to avoid crushing the seedlings his girls are planting.)
Have you always been a farmer?
I was born into it.
My father and grandfather farmed in the Short Pump area near Richmond, back when it was fields and forests instead of malls and big box stores. Then in 1979, when I was 5, we moved out here to King William County and we’ve been farming this 100 acres ever since. I like working outside. When I got older I worked as a machinist during the day and farmed at night. I did that for 15 years ’til I got let go, and I thought, well, I’ll try farming fulltime. I’ve been doing that since 2005, so it’s turning out all right. The members of Seasonal Roots and Dominion Harvest (FAIRY NOTE: Seasonal Roots and Dominion Harvest joined forces last year) — the support of their members has been helpful because you can plant more knowing you have an outlet.
What kind of sustainable farming methods do you use?
We use drip irrigation to conserve water, and we’re low- or no-spray.
We don’t spray for pests unless we see something, and we aim for a one-day interval. That means it’s the kind of thing that disappears quickly so you can get back in the field within one day. We keep our own bees and we don’t want to kill the bees. We also use drip application, so we don’t spray it on the fruit.
(Watch a video of pollinators hard at work on Deer Run Farm.)
Family farms like Chris’s are the heart of Seasonal Roots and the local food movement. If you want peace of mind about the food you’re eating, you have to know and trust the farmers!
ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS
Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.